Our Hero Arrives at Laverick Wells

PUNCTUAL TO THE MOMENT, the railway train, conveying the redoubtable genius, glid into the well- lighted, elegant little station of Laverick Wells, and out of a first-class carriage emerged Mr Sponge, in a ‘down the road’ coat, carrying a horse-sheet wrapper in his hand. So small and insignificant did the station seem after the gigantic ones of London, that Mr Sponge thought he had wasted his money in taking a first-class ticket, seeing there was no one to know. Mr Leather, who was in attendance, having received him hat in hand, with all the deference due to the master of twenty hunters, soon undeceived him on that point. Having eased him of his wrapper, and enquired about his luggage, and despatched a porter for a fly, they stood together over the portmanteau and hat-box till it arrived.

‘How are the horses?’ asked Sponge.

‘Oh, the osses be nicely, sir,’ replied Leather; ‘they travelled down uncommon well, and I’ve had ’em both removed sin they com’d, so either on ’em is fit to go i’ the mornin’ that you think proper.’

‘Where are the hounds?’ asked our hero.

‘’Ounds be at Whirleypool Windmill,’ replied Leather, ‘that’s about five miles off.’

‘What sort of country is it?’ enquired Sponge.

‘It be a stiffish country from all accounts, with a good deal o’ water jumpin’; that is to say, the Liffey runs twistin’ and twinin’ about it like a H’Eel.’

‘Then I’d better ride the brown, I think,’ observed Sponge, after a pause: ‘he has size and stride enough to cover anything, if he will but face water.’

‘I’ll warrant him for that,’ replied Leather; ‘only let the Latchfords well into him, and he’ll go.’

‘Are there many hunting-men down?’ enquired our friend, casually.

‘Great many,’ replied Leather, ‘great many; some good ’ands among ’em too; at least so say their grums, though I never believe all these jockeys say. There be some on ’em ’ere now,’ observed Leather, in an under tone, with a wink of his roguish eye, and jerk of his head towards where a knot of them stood eyeing our friend most intently.

‘Which?’ enquired Sponge, looking about the thinly-peopled station.

‘There,’ replied Leather, ‘those by the book-stall. That be Mr Waffles,’ continued he, giving his master a touch in the ribs as he jerked his portmanteau into a fly, ‘that be Mr Waffles,’ repeated he, with a knowing leer.

‘Which!’ enquired Mr Sponge eagerly.

‘The gent in the green wide-awake ’at, and big-button’d overcoat,’ replied Leather, ‘jest now aspeakin’ to the youth in the tweed and all tweed; that be Master Caingey Thornton, as big a little blackguard as any in the place -- lives upon Waffles, and yet never has a good word to say for him, no, nor for no one else -- and yet to ’ear the little devil a-talkin’ to him, you’d really fancy he believed there wasn’t not never sich another man i’ the world as Waffles -- not another sich rider -- not another sich racket-player -- not another sich pigeon-shooter -- not another sich fine chap altogether.’

‘Has Thornton any horses?’ asked Sponge.

‘Not he,’ replied Leather, ‘not he, nor the gen’lman next him nouther -- he, in the pilot coat, with the whip sticking out of the pocket, nor the one in the coffee-coloured ’at, nor none on ’em in fact;’ adding, ‘they all live on Squire Waffles -- breakfast with him -- dine with him -- drink with him -- smoke with him -- and if any on ’em ’appen to ’ave an ’orse, why they sell to him, and so ride for nothin’ themselves.’

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